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Brett Emison
Brett Emison
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Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan Attacked For Not Being Partisan Enough

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Carrie Severino at the National Review Online is at it again (coded "nofollow"). Her newest piece again contradicts itself in complaining that the Missouri non-partisan court plan doesn't work because it just isn't partisan enough.

Severino suggests that changes suggested could "significantly improve the judicial selection process" by making the process more political, more susceptible to special interest, and more partisan. One proposal would increase citizen members of the panel appointed by the governor, giving the governor de facto control over the nominating commission (more politics; more special interests). Another proposal would have the governor's judicial nominee subject to a vote of the Missouri Senate (more politics; more special interests).

Those opposing these and other radical changes to the Court Plan doing so because they are bad ideas. These proposals are bad for an independent judiciary and they are bad for Missouri and other states that have adopted Missouri's non-partisan court plan based on merit selection of judges.

This is not the first time Severino has attacked merit selection of judges and the non-partisan court plan. Severino has an agenda based on outrageous and baseless allegations. I've addressed these before, but let me do so again.

Severino believes:

(1) The Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan was designed by Marxists to place control of the judiciary in the hands of an elite few.

False. The Missouri Plan was adopted precisely because selection of judges under the former politically based plan was in the hands of an elite few, namely notorious "Boss Tom" Pendergast, who ran the Democratic party in Missouri during the 1920s and 30s. The Missouri Plan was designed specifically to wrest control of the judiciary out of Democratic political control by removing politics from the equation. The plan allowed judges to be selected on merit rather than by political expedience or favoritism. One of the key architects of the Missouri Court Plan: Rush Limbaugh, Sr.

(2) Selection of Judges is Controlled by the Plaintiff's Trial Bar.

False. The appellate judicial commission is comprised of seven members. The commission is chaired by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri (a position that rotates among sitting Supreme Court Judges every 2 years); three members appointed by the Governor (whether Republican or Democrat); and three members elected by the lawyers of the state (including those representing business, prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, family law specialists, corporate in-house counsel, and yes, even those representing injured plaintiffs).

(3) Nominating Commissions "Jam Governors with Nominees They Would Never Choose Themselves".

Maybe. Severino might have a point with this one. But, then, is that not the purpose of a non-partisan, merit-based judicial selection plan? I would assume that, more often than not, the most-qualified applicant may not be the most politically expedient applicant. And that is the point, the purpose, and genius behind non-partisan, merit selection of judges.

Severino might have a point with this one. But, then, is that not the purpose of a non-partisan, merit-based judicial selection plan? I would assume that, more often than not, the most-qualified applicant may not be the most politically expedient applicant. And that is the point, the purpose, and genius behind non-partisan, merit selection of judges.

Severino attacks the non-partisan plan not because it has failed to work, but because it does work. Severino does not attack the plan because it fails to select the most qualified judges, but because it has stymied attempts to stack the courts with political appointees. Severino attacks the non-partisan plan because it is non-partisan.

We know partisan politicians and special interest groups dislike the non-partisan plan, but who supports it? It turns out a broad base of organizations with various political affiliations support the plan:

  • Hon. John Holstein [appointed by Gov. John Ashcroft (R)]
  • Hon. Ann Covington [appointed by Gov. John Ashcroft (R)]
  • Hon. Andrew Jackson Higgins [appointed by Gov. Joe Teasdale (D)]
  • Hon. Edward "Chip" Robertson [appointed by Gov. John Ashcroft (R)]
  • Hon. Ronnie White [appointed by Gov. Mel Carnahan (D)]
  • AARP Missouri
  • Committee for Economic Development
  • Defense Research Institute
  • League of Women Voters
  • Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers
  • Missouri Republican Attorneys for Civil Justice

Fairness. Justice. Liberty. Rule of Law. These are not partisan issues. These are not Democratic vs. Republican issues. There is enough politics in the legislative and executive branches, we should keep politics out of our courts. Cases should be decided on the fact and the law, not by partisan politics funded by special interest groups.

[More on the Missouri Plan]

[More on your 7th Amendment Rights]

(c) Copyright 2012 Brett A. Emison

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